The Pensacola News Journal has run a series of articles on a new program in Pensacola for people who have recently exited jail or prison. Re-Entry Alliance Pensacola, INC. (REAP) opened REAP Community Re-Entry Resource Center at Richards Memorial United Methodist Church. REAP is a local non-profit that provides services and mentoring for individuals re-entering society from jail or prison. REAP, the county, the Clerk of Courts Office and the Sheriff’s Office partnered on a MacArthur grant application, a portion of which will explore county-level re-entry programs and jail alternatives.

Many recently released inmates lack job skills and a support system. They are not welcome in society, and often resort back to criminal lifestyles. Participants say that REAP mentoring has “taken them a long way.” Giving program participants a chance changes their lives, and provides an opportunity for them to transform.

The REAP program is also focused on preventing recidivism (returning to jail/prison), and helping newly released inmates succeed by assisting, mentoring, and empowering them.

The program provides many services, such as identification card assistance, work clothing, personal hygiene items, GED classes, mentoring, medical service referrals, and employment assistance. Participants receive one set of work clothes for free, then can volunteer at a Community Thrift Store for other purchases such as additional clothing, household goods, or a bicycle. The program also operates the REAP What You Sow Community Garden, which provides produce for the feed-the-hungry mission of the Richardson Memorial United Methodist Church. The Church donated the lot in exchange for community service hours in the garden; working in the garden establishes connections between program mentors and participants.

REAP is transforming lives, just like the empty lot was transformed into a community garden.

REAP is located at 2610 W. DeSoto St. and is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Hot lunches are provided by Pensacola United Methodist Community Ministries from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Donations of basic essentials are accepted at the Community Thrift Store, 2600 West Strong Street, in Pensacola.

If you have questions, donations for the program, or are interested in hiring a program participant, please contact Rick Dye at 850-832-3014.

Ron Johnson is a founding member of Re-Entry Alliance Pensacola, Inc., and has served on the board since its inception in May, 2013.

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